How Yahoo! Answers Shaped The Internet
How Yahoo! Answers Shaped The Internet
Yahoo! Answers is shutting down in May. From sex education to homework help, users of the forum remember how it shaped early Internet culture.
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
An online corner for curious thinkers, a relic of a bygone Internet, Yahoo says it is shutting down its Q&A forum, Yahoo Answers.
JAISHREE KUMAR: Can you boil your earphones? Can you fall in love with a potato? How is baby formed? That was another one.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's journalist Jaishree Kumar reading some of the site's most popular questions wistfully because Yahoo Answers was a crucial resource for her growing up.
KUMAR: There were some questions like, I swallowed a watermelon seed. Am I going to get pregnant? Maybe they were just joking around. But at the age of 11, you probably think that, like, hey, can that happen? Can I end up growing a watermelon baby accidentally?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: During her childhood in India, Yahoo Answers was there for Jaishree Kumar when no one else was.
KUMAR: To be honest, I think the lack of sex education I had in my own country in my own social settings is sort of tied up with this because I was going to Yahoo Answers to look for like, you know, what would constitute as basic sex education.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: News that the website will stop allowing new posts on April 20 and will disappear entirely on May 4 has many former users looking back over these past 16 years for their Yahoo Answers greatest hits.
JACQUI LEVITAN: When I was in fifth grade, we had an explorers project, and every person in my class got assigned an explorer.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Jacqui Levitan of San Francisco.
LEVITAN: I was Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. And there was another boy in my class who also was Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, and so I kind of was feeling a little competitive. And I decided I wanted to prank him a little. And so I kept trying to convince him that Cabrillo's favorite color was pink. And he wasn't believing me, and so then I took to Yahoo Answers and posted a question from one account saying, what was Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo's favorite color? - and then went in and answered it with a different account.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: She looked it all up.
LEVITAN: Answered February 13, 2009. According to most of my research, Cabrillo's favorite color was pink. My name is Catalina Rodriguez, and I am distantly related to Juna Cabrillo. I have done a lot of research about this topic, and it is quite true.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Levitan remembers her poor classmate dressing in pink for his presentation. No word on if points got deducted.
MICHAEL DUGAN: The first time I used Yahoo Answers, arguably, was in high school when we had take-home tests that I could copy and paste the test question into Yahoo.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Michael Dugan of Atlanta.
DUGAN: Funny enough, it was pretty much anything. Like, I'm a chemist now, and I know I definitely used it on some chemistry tests in high school and even college.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Tan Tran says he also relied on Yahoo Answers with a dash of hope.
TAN TRAN: The funny thing about Yahoo Answers is you can rank up responses. The highest rated, I pray, is usually the correct one.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Dugan says he saw warning signs, though.
DUGAN: Like, when I searched an answer to cheat for a test, you know, you would dive down a rabbit hole, and you'd see some dumb response to a pretty easy question. And you'd always laugh that.
LUKE WINKIE: Will my laptop get heavier if I put more files on it?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's writer Luke Winkie reading an example. He called Yahoo Answers the most earnest place on the Internet.
WINKIE: You read it, and you're not sure if it's someone kind of just making a joke, or if it's someone who is genuinely curious about this.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Which is precisely why people like Sophie Armstrong are sad to see it go.
SOPHIE ARMSTRONG: I was really hurt when I heard Yahoo Answers was going to close because it has had a incredible cultural impact on the Internet.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Shane Conerty (ph), who runs a meme account called Sad Yahoos, is dedicating the next few weeks to preserving the site's content.
SHANE CONERTY: So after May 4, there will be a Yahoo Answers home, I guess, dedicated to the ridiculousness of Yahoo Answers.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And its incredible cultural impact. RIP Yahoo Answers.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.